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This book is a semi-popular overview of the material underpinnings of the ancient Roman state. But you might say, If it just sets forth resources, manufactures, transport, and trade, how is that different from before and after the Roman Empire, so how does that explain Roman success? Well, Greene adds changes in the climate cycle, which was most favorable to agriculture and therefore human population at the imperial peak. Besides, Greene is not (re)writing an economic history or explanation of Rome-although he does admire what Fernand Braudel accomplished for pre-modern Europe-but rather of archaeology's direct contribution to various fundamental, if overlooked, corners of that enterprise. Accordingly, rather than text-based political history (to which archaeology can of course directly contribute newly discovered monument texts), Greene discusses examples of such typical archaeology subjects as transport (shipwrecks, roads, depictions), money (coins, treasure), agriculture (tools, irrigation, field systems, villas), settlement (farms and towns in their landscapes, environment, climate), and resources (mines, smelters, workshops, construction, and of course pottery shards).
Greene's well-documented point is that an archaeology of the ordinary provides systematic, patterned information on everyday Roman things in the economy that were quite beneath the notice of ancient writers, or simply not documented because they occurred outside of Italy or the major centers. There are no studies in detail here, but stimulating summaries that don't avoid controversial issues. Despite numerous archaeological (material) finds and an amazing variety of textual and depictive sources, many points are subject to continuing differences of interpretation (e.g, the proportion of slave to free labor, in different industries, and in different places). Greene's favorite subject appears to be settlement and regional archaeology: the fitting together of haphazard finds to produce views of how undocumented people once densely occupied a landscape and supported the relatively few town centers that produced the surviving writings. Citations and Further Readings provide access to full details at third remove.
I suspect this is a reprint of an English original, for the author refers to his editors at Batsford, and uses English spellings and typeface. In any case, the type is a bit thick and the B/W photographs are dark and printed on ordinary paper so I could not see all the detail mentioned in captions. Illustrations are appropriate but not plentiful; this is a book for college classes or dedicated Romanophiles rather than casual cocktail tables.